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Understanding SSP and Quarantine Rules

By 31st August 2020

The Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Trinidad, Jamaica, France, Belgium… as the UK tries to keep the ‘R’ rate that we have all become familiar with below or close to 1.0, thousands have been caught out by quickly imposed quarantines over the summer.

The need to then self-isolate immediately for 14 days upon return poses a dilemma: if the employee’s role doesn’t offer potential to work from home, can the employee now ask for sick leave to cover this enforced extended absence?

The simple answer is no.

Any employee caught up by the need to self isolate on return from travelling to any country designated, before or after their date of arrival in that country, has no recourse to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

There is an important distinction here between this type of self-isolation and, for example, when an employee lives with someone who develops COVID symptoms in the UK, which can attract SSP.

As an employer, you can choose to offer sick pay in both circumstances, but SSP only applies to the latter and if you want to offer some payment in the former instance you will not be able to recover it from the SSP Rebate Scheme.

If an employee contacts you to say they are facing self-isolation after a trip abroad you should first ensure they understand the need to comply and then agree with them how this absence will be covered.

As the employer you now have four options:

1)    Let the employee work from home for the 14 days and pay them in full

2)    Agree further annual leave (paid or unpaid, at your discretion)

3)    Pay the equivalent rate of SSP bearing in mind that this cannot be claimed back from the SSP Rebate Scheme

4)    Pay contractual sick pay excluding SSP

You, as the employer, are also permitted to cancel pre-agreed leave that is about to begin, if know the destination country is now on the government’s self-isolation list. This is lawful if you provide the employee notice in advance of at least the same length of time as the leave in question eg two weeks prior to the start date of a two-week period of leave.

That option might be appealing if the consequent extra absence on return cannot be accommodated by the business. But do consider how it might impact employee relations, especially if the employee might lose the cost of their holiday as a result.

We'd recommend speaking to your HR Advisor in the first instance, but we can also help you make the correct claims and the right decisions.

Understanding SSP and Quarantine Rules

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